Post by Dr. Marsha Firestone, contributing Women On Business writer
Supplier diversity in a company is usually a department that encourages the use of diverse vendors as suppliers. This includes Minority Business Enterprises (MBE), Women Business Enterprises (WBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), and Disabled Veteran Businesses (DVB). At the WPEO, we certify WBEs.
According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, there are currently 10.1 million firms owned by women, employing more than 13 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales alone. It is the Supplier Diversity department’s job to be the liaison between these businesses and the Procurement team at their company. The Procurement team does the actual buying for a company. They work to indentify the goods and services that are needed, and then find who to attain them from. Sometimes the two departments work closely together, or they can be completely separate.
As a WBE supplier, it is important to find out how these two teams work together in the company. Then from there, allow the Supplier Diversity person to be your advocate. They will work with the Procurement team, and promote and encourage the use of WBEs. It is important to be certified as a woman-owned business because the organization you are certified with will help you reach supplier diversity departments, and possibly procurement teams as well. Many corporations require the supplier to be certified before you have access to their supplier diversity departments. The good news is that there is a growing list of corporations that recognize certified woman-owned businesses, and look to work with them. Certification creates the access to supplier diversity people, who will then be WBEs’ connection to Procurement departments.
Often times, frustration evolves when WBEs don’t understand the internal structure of a corporation. It is imperative to take the time to know who you are talking with, because your supplier diversity contact can be your biggest advocate and promoter.